Over recent years, school standards in England have risen steadily and substantially at all Key Stages and in all main subjects of the curriculum. But this masks the relative underperformance of the very large proportion of school-aged children: 21 per cent, or 1.7 million – who are currently identified as having special educational needs (SEN).

This document is part of the Breaking the Link series published by the DCSF, which started with a document on disadvantage and low attainment published in March 2009. Its purpose is to raise awareness and influence attitudes of school headteachers, senior leadership teams and heads of school improvement. Its secondary audience is the wider group of teachers, local authority professionals and other staff who support children with SEN.

It considers what works well for local authorities and schools in improving outcomes for children with SEN. Key principles and guidance are suggested in areas of collaboration, leadership, teaching strategies, engaging parents, and wider wellbeing e.g. anti-bullying.


  • Executive Summary
  • The evidence
  • How does the identification of special educational needs relate to children’s progress?
  • Breaking the link in every school and area – what works well
  • Breaking the link – excellent practice already exists
  • Annexes